Suluhu was born on 27 January 1960 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar.
She completed her secondary education in 1977 and began working. Subsequently, she pursued a number of short-courses on a part-time basis. In 1986, she graduated from the Institute of Development Management (present-day Mzumbe University) with an advanced diploma in public administration.
Between 1992 and 1994, she attended the University of Manchester and graduated with a postgraduate diploma in economics. In 2015, she obtained her MSc in Community Economic Development via a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University.
After her secondary school education, she was employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development as a clerk. Upon graduation with her public administration degree, she was employed on a project funded by the World Food Programme.
In 2000, she decided to run for public office. She was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives and was appointed a minister by President Amani Karume.
She was the only high-ranking woman minister in the cabinet and was “looked down on” by her male colleagues because of her gender. She was re-elected in 2005 and was re-appointed as a minister in another portfolio.
In 2010, she sought election to the National Assembly, standing in the parliamentary constituency of Makunduchi and winning by more than 80%.
President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
In July 2015, CCM’s presidential nominee John Magufuli chose her as his running mate for the 2015 election, making her the first female running mate in the party’s history. She subsequently became the first female vice-president in the history of the country upon Magufuli’s victory in the election.
In the wake of President Magufuli’s death on 17 March 2021, Suluhu, as the vice president, has ascended to the presidency, and will serve the balance of Magufuli’s second five-year term.
Suluhu would be the first woman to hold the office. She would also be the second Zanzibarian and second Muslim, after Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who served from 1985 to 1995.
She would become one of two serving female heads of state in Africa, alongside Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde.